A wise man once told me, “I can show you the path, but it is you that must walk it!”
I thought, “But, I want you to show me the path, explain it to me so I can understand, and hold my hand and help me succeed.”
That’s not unreasonable, is it?
And me being me, I like to ask questions and learn all about the what, where, and why. However, I must have asked too many questions as this wise man would repeat, “You have to do this on your own”. He never did answer my questions.
I then thought, “Well, why did I hire you to help me if you keep telling me to do it on my own without your help?”
Have you had this happen to you?
Well, that was the experience I had during the first horse clinic I ever attended. I really enjoyed the clinic and the camaraderie of the students. And the trainer could do amazing things with his horses.
The experience as a whole was good, but it did leave me with a lot of unanswered questions. Plus, when I tried to do the same things with my horse at home it didn’t seem to work the same as at the clinic.
But, how could it? My horse was not the same as the trainer’s horse.
And that experience started a chain reaction in my life. At first, I really tried to do everything on my own because people told me it gave me character, strength, courage, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure you have heard the same speech about what being ‘independent’ does for you.
However, looking back on that first clinic situation, I think the trainer told me to do it on my own because he couldn’t ‘teach’ me how to do it. He, himself, could do what he was teaching beautifully with his own horse. But he was having trouble showing me how he did it.
He couldn’t answer the what, where, and why questions in order for me to understand and learn how to really do it on my own. All he could do was show me how he did it, tell me to imitate him, and then tell me that with practice it would happen.
There was something missing!
Just because his horse knew the cue when I pointed my finger, as he did, at the tire in the arena, didn’t mean that my horse would know what that cue meant. Especially, if I didn’t understand what it meant.
Plus, I couldn’t imitate every little body movement he was making in order to communicate his intentions to his horse because most of what he did was natural to him and I couldn’t see it.
Practice isn’t everything.
When it comes to a relationship, a friendship, or a working partnership with your horse, it takes two. You and your horse working together, talking to each other, understanding each other, and figuring things out together. So how are you supposed to do that if you, yourself, don’t understand it?
Cues are not all universal when it comes to a horse. Horses don’t go through a school when they are born that teaches them about humans and what we mean when we do certain things like point to a tire. Even another human might be a bit confused if they just see someone pointing at a tire.
Learning and growing in any discipline or skill takes knowledge, understanding, patience, and practice.
It also takes that aspect that was missing earlier – the personal touch. I needed someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, and someone who would be there if and when I needed help. Just knowing that there was someone there if I needed, gave me more confidence in myself and my ability to reach my goals.
After trying to go it alone and figure all this stuff out on my own as my first teacher told me, I realized that it was going to take me a very long time. So, I decided to ask for help and I started going to more clinics. I signed up for every clinic that came close to my home town and a few that I had to fly to.
I also enlisted the help of personal trainers to help me put what I had learned at clinics into real-time practice with my horse. That definitely helped the gap from working with a clinic horse to practicing with my own horse. Then once the internet started promoting online classes about horses, I couldn’t wait to join them as well. I couldn’t get enough.
Wow, was there a treasure trove of information out there. I loved it!
Then the years flew by as I continued to learn everything I could about lots of different things. I loved the variety. I did Dressage, Show Jumping, Hunter, Endurance, English and Western Pleasure, Team Penning, Cutting, Reining, Barrel Racing, Trick Training, Obstacles, Horse Health, basic to advanced Horsemanship, Reiki with Horses, and lots of Trail Riding. I even spent 9 years as an apprentice and became a certified trainer in liberty and groundwork.
Then my focus changed after 40+ years of absorbing everything I could about horses. I spent the next decade learning how to be a good teacher. I wanted to pass on to others what I had learned and was so excited about. Even though I was still learning with my horses, I wanted to take the knowledge that I had accumulated over my lifetime and help others who wanted the same things I did.
This way, they didn’t have to go through the pain, traumas, and mistakes that I did. Nor did they have to endure the countless number of years that it took me to learn. Isn’t that one of the things we are looking for in a teacher? Someone who can make the process easier for us by teaching us what they know in a quicker manner than they learned it, without the hassles it took them to learn it?
Plus, I wanted to do for others, as a teacher, that I had not been able to find myself. I wanted to be a teacher that is there for each student, to personalize their experience and their learning, and to be available to talk to 1-to-1 whenever they needed me. The exact model of what I had been looking for in my first clinic, but didn’t find.
If your goal was to be able to go to your horse, tack him or her up, get on and go for a beautiful trail ride where the two of you were both relaxed, and you both were confident and comfortable to go anywhere together with no issues…
AND you found a teacher you liked and trusted who could get you to that goal in 4-6 months, all the while being there for you on a daily and weekly basis to support you…
Wouldn’t you jump at the chance? I know I would!
Because I never found that, I decided to create it on my own for my students. And that is exactly what I do now.
I’ve also learned in life that there are people that know a lot about a little and those that know a little about a lot. But no one knows everything. So, sometimes we need to focus on a specific discipline, or two, that we really enjoy.
And on top of that, I have learned that teaching is an art. There are amazing teachers in my past that have taught me by example how to be a better teacher through their passion to teach and their desire to make this a better world. They have shown me the different ways people learn and how to encourage and help support the learning process in others.
Even my bad teachers have been good teachers, by teaching me what NOT to do. I am grateful for all my teachers!
One of my favorite sayings is, “A good teacher makes the poor student good and the good student superior”. So no matter the student, a good teacher can always develop them into a better student.
My mother used to ask me every night at dinner, “What did you learn in school today?” At first, I remember that question being hard to answer and I didn’t want to think about it.
Then after a while, I started thinking about it during class. And then, I couldn’t wait to tell my parents what I had learned that day in school. I think that’s where my passion for learning came from.
Those teachers, when I was young, also showed me that how a teacher teaches is important. A teacher who was demanding and dictatorial, who told me, “This is the way it is, period”, with no explanations or reasons why, was not what I wanted. It was harder for me to learn that way.
However, A teacher who was kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and understanding of my needs and wants, and one who personally helped me reach my individual goals, was exactly what I wanted and needed. This helped me learn, remember, and want to learn more.
I’ve learned a lot of different things from teachers in my past and am very grateful to each and every one of them.
How does any of this relate to you and your horse?
- You are your horse’s teacher.
- Please be a good teacher and find out how your horse learns best and what motivates him or her.
- Focus on one or two subjects at a time.
- Be patient, kind, and understanding while teaching/training your horse.
- Look back at what you liked and didn’t like with your teachers and learn from them.
- You don’t have to do this on your own! Find a good teacher to help you reach your goals.
- It’s important to take lessons from a teacher you like and trust. Allow them to make it easier and faster for you and your horse.
- Have a passion and a heart-felt desire for what you want to do with your horse.
- Lead by example…sometimes your horse will teach you. Treat him or her the way you want to be treated.
- Be happy!
Let me know some of your experiences in the comments below. I love to hear your stories.